One area where a lot of even the most modern businesses struggle is accounts payable. Some of the biggest issues in accounts payable and invoice processing are the result of manual workflows. Manual workflows in accounts payable leave open the potential for fraud and errors. It’s also time-consuming and expensive. Some of the most common errors seen with manual processing include transposing errors, and a lengthy approvals process.
Of course, there’s also fraud, which is more nefarious and sometimes quite a bit more costly than errors. Fraud is tough to identify in a lot of cases unless there is automation or a clear system in place for detecting it.
So, with all that in mind, what are the solutions? What are the steps organizations can take to improve invoice processing in 2019 and beyond? How can these solutions bring benefits throughout the organization?
This was touched on a bit above, and automation is the key to solving many of the most significant and impactful problems in accounts payable. With automation, it cuts out the need for most of the elements of a manual workflow, and it also provides a clearer way to gain visibility into what’s happening and see fraud before it grows into something much bigger.
What a lot of companies still fail to realize is that with accounts payable and invoice processing automation, it’s not just good for the organization. It’s good for employees as well. It makes it easier for them to do their work, it’s less tedious, it saves time, and it lets them focus on more strategic areas.
No one loves the idea of an audit, including the people charged with conducting them, but it’s important. Even with invoice processing automation, audits still need to be done regularly. Of course, the automation element makes the auditing process much easier.
When selecting an automation platform, it’s a good idea to look for one with built-in audit triggers, such as targeted sampling. Then, everything can be easily documented, and someone can go over the information much more easily and see where problems might exist.
Maintain Strong Relationships
While technology and automation are extremely important when it comes to improving accounts payable processes, that doesn’t mean the importance of relationships should be overlooked. Your relationships with vendors and the sense of trust that you have with one another are essential.
Along with adding new technology and automation, consider making 2019 the year that you also strengthen your vendor relationships.
Make sure someone is checking in with your vendors regularly, and if you can’t pay, let them know up front and in a timely way.
While you’re at it, also look for ways that you can get discounts by paying on time, and order in bulk whenever you can.
Identify and Eliminate Excessive Invoices
It can be helpful to take a look at your invoices as they stand currently. Are there are a lot of invoices being paid out that are low dollar amounts? Are they going to suppliers that you don’t work with that often? What about expenses that are linked to travel and other employee expenses?
If you see these items, you might want to consider putting them on a company credit card instead. This eliminates unnecessary time spent dealing with invoices that are redundant or unnecessary, and it’s fewer checks you’re going to have to write.
Re-Evaluate Your Processes
Even with workflow and invoice processing automation, you can’t underestimate the need for good, simple and standardized processes. Sometimes companies will implement new automation software and think that’s sufficient and they don’t have to worry about the processes, and this isn’t the case.
Re-evaluating, modernizing, simplifying and streamlining your processes isn’t just good for your company and your employees. It’s also going to be good for your vendors, and that goes back to the importance of strong relationships.
A lot of times when vendors figure out a company they work with doesn’t have standardized ways for handling invoices, they become frustrated, or they send them to the wrong place. That then takes up a lot more time, leading to delays in reimbursements.
Finally, whenever you have anything on paper such as an invoice, digitally archive it right away. Your automation solution should make this fairly simple to do. Don’t have anything associated with your accounts payable process or department that isn’t stored digitally. Scan them, archive them and process them in that order. This will speed up processing and also help prevent anything from falling through the cracks.